Selling to Multi-Location Brands: Sizing Up the Prospects

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Multi-location brands have been a little slower to embrace digital technologies in support of their local marketing and advertising than SMBs, but that’s changing pretty fast. The biggest of those companies still tend to be a little conservative, but they’re shifting digital spending towards local and adopting a broader variety of tactics. They’re highly concerned with proving marketing ROI and less bothered by managing multiple providers, and it looks like they could use help on social media and display advertising.

According to preliminary analysis of Street Fight’s State of Hyperlocal survey of readers at companies that sell local marketing and commerce technologies and services, over half report that selling to national brands that market locally is difficult. Only 14% say it’s easy, the rest neutral. In part to help vendors understand customer needs, Street Fight conducted an online survey in June 2017 of 250 companies with more than 100 employees and multiple locations. The respondents were local advertising or marketing managers and decision-makers with knowledge and authority over campaigns and programs in support of local branches, stores, and resellers. In this post we’ll look at some of the characteristics of the biggest ones – those with annual revenue of $1 billion or more comprised 30% of our survey respondents – in comparison with other enterprise local marketers.

On average, multi-location brands spend about 30% of their digital marketing budgets on local objectives. The bigger companies are on the lower side of that figure. They’re moving digital dollars to local, but a little slower: 6% said they were expected their local mix to increase significantly, and another quarter to increase somewhat. The corresponding rates for the under a billion companies were 13% and 31%. Only single digit percentages of either group said the mix would decrease.

Similarly, as shown in the figure above, more of the somewhat smaller companies expected to increase spending on each of the digital tactics we asked about, with the exception of email. More important, all expected to boost spending across the board, with social media the top priority. But vendors supporting local sites, including listings and presence management, might find the mid-sized brands more fruitful targets. All of the big brands expressed near-term interest in exploring new technologies like real-time location data and mobile push advertising.  The biggest ones were a little less excited about addressable TV (even if they seem more reliant on television ads) and programmatic local ad buying.

The figure below shows what portion of each group rated a given traditional or digital technique among its top 5 most effective. It’s illustrative to look at both what each group rated effective as well as ineffective. The biggest brands had the most success with email marketing, and they also value direct mail and TV somewhat more than social media and online display ads. They also seem to have less success with streaming video, and geo- or re-targeted advertising. Both groups seem to struggle with search, likely because it’s more focused on corporate e-commerce sites than local branches.

We asked multi-location brands what were their most difficult challenges in implementing local digital marketing. Brands of all sizes rated proving ROI and attribution as a top challenge, but the biggest companies where nearly half again as likely to say so. In contrast, they seemed to have fewer problems managing advertising or professional services providers. The were a third less likely than the smaller enterprises to rank that most or second most difficult. However, both groups had trouble with managing multiple sources of customer information and overlapping or contradictory data analytics. Would-be suppliers to the biggest brands should be able to co-exist with other suppliers, including incumbents, but they’ll need to cleanse and structure the data they provide so that it may be integrated more easily with first- and second-party sources. All in the service of proving marketing return.

A few more related tidbits on the $1 billion plus companies:

  • As you might expect, they make more digital marketing decisions at headquarters rather than in a local or joint fashion than the other enterprise marketers.
  • Their sales organizations are likely to have a role in data ownership and management.
  • They’re less likely to be collecting third-party location data yet, even though it’s on their radar.
  • They’re more likely to be using point-of-sale data to determine marketing effectiveness.
  • They’re heavy users of customer surveys.

So while the biggest brands may be a little conservative in their use of local digital marketing, they’re increasing their spending with a keen focus on ROI and customer/prospect data. Multi-location brands with less than $1 billion in revenue might be farther along in embracing local digital, and more experienced with a variety of local digital display and targeting techniques.

David Card is Street Fight’s director of research.

Click here to take the new State of Hyperlocal survey and download a free report.